10 Vaccines That Have Saved Millions Of Lives

By Amber Levesque June 18 2020 in Society

Vaccines-life savers. Image credit: Ioat/Shutterstock.com
Vaccines-life savers. Image credit: Ioat/Shutterstock.com
  • There is no link between the MMR shot and autism. Scientists in the U.S. and other developed countries have carefully studied the shot and have not found any link between autism and the MMR shot.
  • 9% of Americans believe the measles vaccine (MMR) is dangerous.
  • MMR vaccine prevented 23.2 million deaths from 2000-2018.
  • 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths have been prevented thanks to vaccinations.

As the world scrambles to find a vaccine for COVID-19, we sit at home in lock-down waiting patiently. Going to the grocery store, picking up prescriptions, or even taking your dog out for a walk puts people at risk of catching COVID-19. We as a nation know the importance of finding a vaccine so we can all go back to work and allow the economy to heal. Imagine a world where viruses and diseases were at every corner. Our healthcare system would crash, the population would decrease, infant mortality would rise. Luckily, that is not the case. Throughout the 21st century, scientists have developed vaccines to help keep us safe and immune to deadly pathogens. Listed are ten life-saving vaccines that have spared millions.

10. Haemophilus Influenza Type B (Hib)

ActHIB (Hib-vaccine). Image credit: Melvil/Wikimedia.org
ActHIB (Hib-vaccine). Image credit: Melvil/Wikimedia.org

Thanks to vaccines, this disease is relatively unknown. Hib is a disease that is most dangerous to young children, causing lifelong disability and can be fatal. Hib is spread through respiratory droplets, through coughing, or sneezing. The most common symptom of Hib is meningitis, which is an infection of the tissue that covers the spinal cord and brain. If a child is infected, there is a 5% chance they will die and of those who survive, one out of five will have brain damage or become deaf.

9. Hepatitis B

This electron micrograph reveals the presence of hepatitis-B virus HBV "Dane particles", or virions. Image credit: CDC/Public domain
This electron micrograph reveals the presence of hepatitis-B virus HBV "Dane particles", or virions. Image credit: CDC/Public domain

Hepatitis B attacks the liver, which can lead to liver cancer. Each year over 780,000 people die from complications of Hepatitis B. This blood and bodily fluid transmitted virus is very dangerous to babies as it can be spread from the mother if she is infected. Of those babies who contract the virus from their mother, 90% of them will become chronically infected. In addition to birth transmission, you can catch this virus through an open cut or sore, or even sharing a toothbrush. The virus can live on an object for at least seven days. There is no cure for hepatitis B.

8. Mumps

Child with mumps.
Child with mumps.

Puffy cheeks and swollen jaws are what make mumps recognizable. Before a vaccine, mumps was one of the most dangerous and common causes for both deafness and meningitis and encephalitis. Mumps can be spread through direct contact with saliva or coughing and sneezing. Since 1967 when the vaccine was popularized there has been a 99% decrease in cases in the US. Mumps can be easily prevented through the MMR vaccine.

7. Tetanus

The nurse is injecting anti-tetanus to female students in primary school in Thailand. Image credit: Nakornthai/Shutterstock.com
The nurse is injecting anti-tetanus to female students in primary school in Thailand. Image credit: Nakornthai/Shutterstock.com

Growing up we are all certain to have cut our leg or arm on a rusty nail while playing outside. Without this vaccine, we would experience symptoms like lockjaw, stiffness in the neck, painful body spasms, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, and eventually death. Tetanus cannot be transmitted from person to person—it comes from toxins mad by spores of bacteria found in soil, dust, and animal feces. Be sure to get your booster shot every ten years, especially if you plan on traveling to underdeveloped countries.

6. Rubella

This infant presented with 'blueberry muffin' skin lesions indicative of congenital rubella." Image credit: CDC/Public domain
This infant presented with 'blueberry muffin' skin lesions indicative of congenital rubella." Image credit: CDC/Public domain

Spread through coughing and sneezing, the German strand of the measles known as rubella is rare in the US, but not unheard of. Symptoms of this virus include a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Rubella is particularly dangerous to pregnant women who can spread the virus to their unborn child which can lead to miscarriages or birth defects. Before the vaccine, rubella would cause serious birth anomalies and intellectual delays around 20,000 newborns a year. There has been a 99.9% decrease since 2015 in the number of cases since the beginning of the 20th century.

5. Chickenpox

Child presenting with chickenpox. Image credit: Petras Gagilas/Flickr.com
Child presenting with chickenpox. Image credit: Petras Gagilas/Flickr.com

It is safe to assume that most of us have had chickenpox, some of us still bearing scars from those itchy splotches that covered our bodies. Before a vaccine was available, more than four million people got chickenpox each year in the US. Of those millions, around 100-150 died from this virus. The CDC recommends that your child get two doses of the vaccine, and not to chance them catching it naturally as there is no way to know how it will affect them. It can be mild, but in some instances, people have developed skin infections, dehydration, pneumonia, and even encephalitis. Of those children vaccinated, 98% were completely protected from the chickenpox. The vaccine may not offer protection to all, but it does elevate the severity of the symptoms.

4. Polio

An Indian child receives polio vaccine drops on National Immunisation Day in Guwahati. Image credit: Talukdar David/Shutterstock.com
An Indian child receives polio vaccine drops on National Immunisation Day in Guwahati. Image credit: Talukdar David/Shutterstock.com

Before a vaccine, polio would paralyze 10,000 children a year. According to WHO, polio has been eradicated by 99%. Since the polio vaccine, 16 million people have been saved from paralysis. There are three countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, which have yet to stop the transmission of polio. There are three wild strands of polio, none of which can survive outside the human body for long periods. Eventually, this disease will die out, when it can no longer find an unvaccinated host to infect.

3. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis is a highly communicable, vaccine-preventable disease caused due to Bordetella pertussis, a gram-negative coccobacillus.
Pertussis is a highly communicable, vaccine-preventable disease caused due to Bordetella pertussis, a gram-negative coccobacillus.

This violent coughing fit causing bacteria can be deadly to young babies. Before a vaccine, pertussis would kill 8,000 people annually, but today the number has dropped to fewer than 20 per year. Whooping cough is spread through a cough or sneeze and almost anyone who is exposed will catch it if they are not vaccinated. It generally begins with a runny nose, mild cough, and a pause in breathing in babies known as apnea. From there it can develop into a more serious problem, which can be uncontrollable coughing fits, seizures, difficulty eating, and sleeping, turning blue from a lack of oxygen, and vomiting after a coughing fit. It is recommended that pregnant mothers get vaccinated to ensure the baby is protected at birth.

2. Influenza (Flu)

Image credit: SK Design/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: SK Design/Shutterstock.com

The flu is a virus that causes infections in the nose, upper airways, throat, and lungs. The CDC estimates that since 2010, between 130 and 1,200 children have died from the flu each year. Like it or not, the CDC recommends that everyone get an annual flu shot, especially children. Doctors strongly recommend that children 6 months of age and older get a shot by the end of October. Contrary to popular belief, the flu shot does not cause the flu. It takes two full weeks after the flu shot for your immune system to be able to protect against the flu. Get it early and get it annually.

1. Measles

A child infected with the measles virus. Image credit: Fotohay/Shutterstock.com
A child infected with the measles virus. Image credit: Fotohay/Shutterstock.com

Known as one of the world’s most contagious diseases, you can catch measles two hours after someone with it has left the room. It is spread through a cough or sneeze and can be transmitted by an infected person four days before showing any symptoms. Measles starts with a high fever and can result in a cough, rash of tiny red spots, diarrhea, and an ear infection. It can lead to pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, deafness, and even death in the rare case. People most at risk of catching this disease are young, unvaccinated children, unvaccinated pregnant women, and anyone who is non-immune. Measles is still quite common in developing countries, which puts unvaccinated children in the US at risk. Annually, 20 million people worldwide will contract measles.  

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